Landscape with Figures

Thomas B. Glessing (American, 1817-1882)

Currently on View in K211
Image Licensing

  • This pioneer family is arranged to remind the viewer of a nativity scene, complete with Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, and a manger.
  • The wild landscape of tangled trees and jutting rocks suggests the untamed quality and natural beauty of the American wilderness at that time. In Glessing's composition, the figures coexist peacefully with the natural environment that dwarfs them.
  • Glessing, and immigrant from England, was living in Indianapolis when he painted this scene.

Thomas Glessing was born in London, but settled in America when he was twenty years old. He was best known for his theatrical scenery and landscapes. Glessing also decorated the interior of Old Fellows Hall in Indianapolis and was commissioned to paint a series of large canvases that illustrate the city’s history for the first Indiana exposition in 1873. Glessing left Indianapolis in 1873 to accept a position as scenic painter at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

In 1859, at the time Glessing painted Landscape with Figures, he was in Indianapolis decorating the Metropolitan Theatre. Glessing’s landscape shows the influence of Indiana artist Jacob Cox as well as knowledge of his English heritage. His inclusion of figures turns this romantic landscape into a genre scene that is reminiscent of the Holy Family, complete with manger, mother and child, Joseph and John.


Mary Q. Burnet. Art and Artists of Indiana, New York: The Century Company, 1921. Reprinted by Unigraphic, Inc., 1981. ASIN: B002J7QO2K

Purchased from the parents of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Wilbur circa 1961 in the Midwest; sold to the museum by Mrs. Stuart Wilbur in 1991

Object Information

Thomas B. Glessing (American, 1817-1882)
creation date
oil on canvas
33 x 42-1/4 in. (canvas)
39-1/2 x 48-3/4 x 3 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed and dated, l.l.: GLESSING / 1859
accession number
credit line
Miscellaneous Painting Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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